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Shoulder Pain

Shoulder Pain


Many patients come into our office complaining of Rotator Cuff Tears, when in fact very few actually have a tear. There are several etiologies to shoulder pain; Adhesive Capsulitis (frozen shoulder), Subacromial Bursitis, Supraspinatus Tendonitis, Glenohumeral Instability, Chondrocalcinosis, Osteoarthritis, Gout, Lyme Arthritis, Bicipital Tendonitis, and Ganglion Cyst are but a few possible causes of shoulder pain. It is best to think of cause of injury/pain and age in making generalizations for diagnosing shoulder pain.


Cause of Injury/Pain


  • Subacromial bursitis
  • Supraspinatus tendonitis
  • Bicipital tendonitis
  • Impingement syndrome

Forceful Trauma

  • Glenhumeral instability
  • Fracture
  • Rotator cuff tear

Insidious Onset

  • Lyme Arthritis
  • Adhesive capsulitis
  • Ganglion cyst
  • Tumor


  • Gout
  • Condrocalcinosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rotator cuff tear



Glenohumeral instability
Subacromial bursitis
Supraspinatus tendonitis
Bicipital tendonitis
Impingement syndrome
Ganglion cyst
Lyme Arthritis
Adhesive capsulitis
Rotator cuff tear



Diagnosing Shoulder Problems

The art of diagnosing shoulder problems is to relate the two above with a good history from the patient and a comprehensive shoulder exam. Believe it or not, there are over 50 shoulder exam tests that can be done by the examining physician alone, without the use of x-rays, MRI's, or arthrograms. The latter tests may be used to confirm a clinical suspicion or in difficult cases, to aid in the diagnosis, but a patient's history of injury/pain and a good shoulder directed physical examination will usually suffice in making a diagnosis and treatment plan. Many of these problems are approached in a non-operative manner with medications, rest, ice, and physical therapy suplemented with cortisone injections on occasion. If an operation is needed, most of these conditions can be treated by arthroscopic (scope) techniques, with limited incisions and usually done as a same day surgery.

Initiating early treatment for shoulder problems is often the best curative course. If you recognize these symptoms, you should make a prompt appointment to have it evaluated further by your primary care physician or an orthopaedic surgeon.